August Ames: The True Story Behind Her Short Life And Controversial Suicide

Published August 25, 2021
Updated September 14, 2022

In December 2017, August Ames tweeted about her unwillingness to work with men who appeared in gay adult films. Days later, she would be dead by suicide.

Adult film star August Ames was found dead by suicide in December 2017, mere days after she tweeted about not wanting to perform with male porn stars who also do gay porn. Her public refusal to work with “crossover” talent had been met with virulent accusations of homophobia.

Her husband, Kevin Moore, was convinced that it was this flood of internet bullying and cyberstalking that pushed Ames over the brink. His perspective on the matter was published on Ames’ website and announced in a tweet from her account as “the truth.”

In the years following her untimely death, Moore’s account has largely been accepted as the truth of what happened to August Ames. Investigative journalist and author Jon Ronson, however, has uncovered a litany of facts that likely contributed to her suicide that were largely overlooked in the wake of her passing.

Ronson’s podcast series, The Final Days of August, is molded in the vein of Serial. So what exactly led a successful 23-year-old porn star to take her own life? Was it really the result of tweets, and an inability to take in digital criticism from strangers? What were her final days like and what other hardships were troubling her during this time?

The Death Of August Ames

Born Mercedes Grabowski on August 23, 1994, in Antigonish, Canada, August Ames performed in over 270 porn scenes throughout her four-year stint as an adult film star. According to Rolling Stone, she garnered over 600,00 Twitter followers before she died.

August Ames Death

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesAugust Ames and her husband Kevin Moore attend the 2016 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 23, 2016.

In 2015, Ames was nominated for Best New Starlet by the Adult Video News (AVN) awards. She was even nominated for Female Performer of the year in 2018 before she killed herself. From the surface, her career didn’t seem to factor into her suicide — or did it?

Despite her successes, the Nova Scotia native was found dead in her California home before she could furnish it with a trophy. The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed she died from asphyxiation via hanging.

“She meant the world to me,” said the bereaved 43-year-old Kevin Moore in a statement. Countless fans and colleagues mourned August Ames’s death online, describing her as “the most kind-hearted person ever” and “a beautiful light.”

August Ames Instagram Post

August Ames/InstagramAugust Ames pictured in a June 2017 Instagram post. Just months later, she would die by suicide.

Some of her actual friends, however, were accusing her adult film colleagues of contributing to her death.

It all began with a series of tweets August Ames published a few days before her death.

Homophobia In The Adult Film Industry

On December 3, 2017, August Ames warned whoever was taking over her upcoming shoot — which she allegedly dropped out of — that they would be collaborating with “crossover” talent. These performers appear in both gay and heterosexual porn.

Ames’ message was seen as derogatory by some, as it suggested that males who do gay porn are more likely to have, and thus spread, sexually transmitted diseases. She called the casual inclusion and hiring of these actors “BS” in a December 3rd tweet:

Her tweet resulted in a flurry of angry replies that accused her of homophobia and discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community. Ames initially defended her stance as a mere warning to the actress replacing her, assuring fans she harbored no ill will against homosexuals:

She then claimed that most porn actresses don’t work with men who have done gay porn — “for safety” reasons. Ames explained that she was unwilling to put her body at risk in that manner, though required testing for STDs and STIs was the same for all performers.

Her family and friends said Ames was suffering from depression at the time of her death. The so-called cyberbullying merely exacerbated feelings of low self-worth and made them unbearable. The issue became a public rallying cry for her family in the wake of her suicide.

“I want my sister’s death to be recognized as a serious issue — bullying is not OK,” her brother James told The Independent. “It cost me my baby sister’s life. I will do what I can to be a voice for Mercedes but right now my family and I need to be left alone to grieve — we have lost a loved one.”

Was James right or was there more to August Ames’s death than a barrage of tweets that met her at a mental low point?

Could Something Else Have Driven August Ames To Suicide?

August Ames

Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic/GettyAugust Ames appears at the Twistys booth during the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Jon Ronson said “it’s impossible to know” what exactly drove August Ames to kill herself.

“There were many factors that led to her suicide, some were terrible and some were … human and small,” he said.

“So I think it would be wrong to say that any single factor led to her suicide. Would she be alive today? That’s an impossible question to answer because she was so upset what happened in Las Vegas and how that triggered and something else may have.”

Ronson alluded to an incident in Las Vegas in his comment, where six weeks before Ames’ death she did a scene with Russian porn star Markus Dupree. Ronson, who was one of the very few people to screen the unreleased scene, said it got rough — and may have triggered deeply negative feelings for Ames. After watching the scene, Ronson said, “You can’t shake the feeling that that’s where it begins,” referring to August Ames’s downward spiral.

And Ronson’s theory is backed up by distraught text messages Ames sent after the shoot.

Ames told her friend that Dupree went “full on War Machine” on her, referencing Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver — a professional fighter who was sentenced to life in prison for attacking his porn star girlfriend Christy Mack. She claimed that Dupree was “dragging” her around and choked her with her panties.

Ronson, on his podcast also alleges that Ames suffered abuse as a child and speculates that her husband, Kevin Moore, may have been an overbearing bully himself. Ronson also said he made sure to keep Moore up to speed, in terms of the subject matter he was exploring in his podcast, but Moore was vehemently opposed to sharing much himself — and declined to listen to the finished product.

“He told us he didn’t want to hear it,” said Ronson.

Ultimately, the tragic facts remain — a 23-year-old woman took her own life after experiencing a series of traumatic events. However, whether August Ames took her own life because of an online pile-on, past trauma, the filming of a rough sex scene — or a combination of the three — the world will likely never know.

After reading about the tragic death of August Ames, read about Robin Williams’s tragic suicide or the confounding death of Elisa Lam.

Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
Erik Hawkins
Erik Hawkins studied English and film at Keene State College in NH and has taught English as a Second Language stateside and in South America. He has done award-winning work as a reporter and editor on crime, local government, and national politics for almost 10 years, and most recently produced true crime content for NBC's Oxygen network.
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Serena, Katie. "August Ames: The True Story Behind Her Short Life And Controversial Suicide.", August 25, 2021, Accessed May 23, 2024.